Abraham Lincoln is a three-part History Channel documentary event series that more or less serves as the definitive biography of Honest Abe.
The documentary series is very different than Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln. For starters, this isn’t a biopic focusing on a narrow point in time. It is a documentary that mixes in live-action and spans President Abraham Lincoln’s entire life. The two projects do have something in common since they are based on different books written by Doris Kearns Goodwin. In this instance, Leadership: In Turbulent Times. Lincoln is one of the best presidents to serve the country so it is really no surprise that there are multiple books about his life.
I was late to watching the documentary series because YouTube TV does not have an agreement with the History Channel. As a result, it means having to wait until the series became available on DVD. This would usually happen after learning about the DVD release through the publicist. But somehow, no release ever came so it wasn’t until the recent dual-release of Theodore Roosevelt and FDR in the Presidential Legacy Collection that I learned about History producing a documentary series about President Abraham Lincoln.
Graham Sibley made a wise decision by not watching Daniel Day-Lewis’s Oscar-winning portrayal. Had he done so, he probably would have been in his head in approaching the role. In any event, he portrays Honest Abe during ages 21-56. This is during his days as a lawyer, rising political fame, and of course, the presidency. As we all know, the president was shot and killed at Ford’s Theatre just a few days following the Civil War. Anyway, the dramatic scenes are cinematic as one can possibly get for the budget.
My first thought going into watching the documentary is what is there to learn I do not already know. Look at how much already exists. Lincoln’s Dilemma premiered two days earlier on Apple TV+ and was available to binge. Anyway, audiences get an opportunity to learn new insights about Lincoln by way of the expert interviews. Among interviews, President Barack Obama and Gen. Stan McChrystal are the two headliners. Kearns Goodwin chimes in when available. Other than them, we get insight from historians Christy Coleman, Dr. Allen Guelzo, Dr. Edna Greene Medford, Harold Holzer, Dr. Caroline Janney, and Dr. Catherine Clinton. Archival photos, news accounts, and Lincoln’s own words complement the interviews. Like with the previous series, they weave in with the dramatic footage.
The total run-time is 5 hours, 21 minutes. This comes out to be about 1 hour, 47 minutes per episode. Yes, this is a lot but I would expect nothing less from the History Channel. The network always has a way of going above and beyond with documentary event series and Abraham Lincoln is no exception. This was History’s third such series following Washington and Grant. Theodore Roosevelt, FDR, and Kennedy would follow. Venville directed at least four of the series–quite the epic undertaking!
DIRECTOR: Malcolm Venville
EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS: Dave Sirulnick, Jon Kamen, Meredith Bennett, Elizabeth Bull, Sara Enright, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Beth Laski, Malcolm Venville, Eli Lehrer, Mary E. Donahue, Jennifer Wagman
FEATURING: President Barack Obama, Gen. Stan McChrystal, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Christy Coleman, Dr. Allen Guelzo, Dr. Edna Greene Medford, Harold Holzer, Dr. Caroline Janney, Dr. Catherine Clinton
CAST: Graham Sibley, Justin Salinger, Colin Moss, Jenny Stead, Wayne Harrison, Stefan Adegbola
Abraham Lincoln aired February 20-22, 2022 on the History Channel. Grade: 4/5
Please subscribe to Solzy at the Movies on Buttondown.